Huff... Puff... Gasp...

Yesterday I journeyed to Uwharrie National Forest to do a trial run of the 8-mile course I'll be racing on in a few weeks for the Uwharrie Mountain Race.  There is a 8-mile, 20-mile, and 40-mile race. I, thank God, only signed up for the 8-miler, along with my friend Keith. My hard core  running buddies Dave and Michael are running the 40 miler--for the 10th time

Below is a chart with the course elevation. Notice how mile one goes UP.


As the four of us set out on the first mile yesterday, the phrase I'm screwed kept coming to mind. Not only does the course start up, but it's on this rocky uneven surface. I couldn't find my footing and felt like I was falling/leaping more than running. The downhills were worse. I couldn't shake my fear of falling and held my body tight and tried to ease down them, which only made it worse. Michael whooshed by me at about 90 mph, making the downhill look easy.

It got better though. The trail turned into less dry river bed running and more trail after mile one. Still challenging, as leaves cover the forest floor and you can't see rocks or roots just waiting to trip you. (The course instructions note that all runners should expect to fall at least once during the day.) But it was a beautiful run and I got better at finding my footing as the morning progressed. I think it will be a lot of fun on race day with runners darting everywhere through the trees and scrambling up and down the mountainside.

Thank God Dave and Michael took us out yesterday for this practice run.  I think I mentally would have freaked out on race day during that first mile. Now that I "know" the course and know I can do it, I'm looking forward to having some fun on race day.

Oh--and just to show you what a difference trail running makes, note my time. An everyday 8-mile run on pavement might take me about an hour and ten or fifteen minutes.  This run took an hour and forty-five minutes.  And I was whuped at the end. Very happy to see the car.

Still, I can see why trail runners swear never to go back to pavement running. Yesterday it was us, barren trees, a carpeted forest, crisp air, mountain views, and nothing to do but run.

Not too shabby.